December 24, 2009

Jack of All Trades with expressions + particle tree

Missed this video tutorial last week from Eran Stern on Creative Cow, Jack of All Trades, Master of Expressions, in which "Eran shows how to create a jumpy and squishy animation using the power of expressions."

Update: Red Giant TV Episode 35, Creating a Christmas Tree with Trapcode Particular by Michael Park, is another useful piece.

December 23, 2009

Glass Orbs in After Effects

Video Copilot has come up with their 100th tutorial (with project file) to tide you over the holidays. Glass Orbs leaves you some work to finish on the shadows and reflections:

"In this tutorial we will create a reflective orb using only built-in After Effects plug-ins. The key to this tutorials is building a proper spherical map and utilizing the raytrace capabilities of the CC Sphere effect."

December 21, 2009

'Motion Control' with After Effects

Motion Control with After Effects is an episode of Bert Monroy's Revision3 show PixelPerfect, with Richard Harrington showing motion control in After Effects. He turns old photos turned into 3D scenes with Photoshop and After Effects, showing how to scale objects, view in different perspectives, use camera presets, control focus, and add custom shadows and lights.

See also a way to automate some of this with a new script from Paul Tuersley in Multiplane script and demos. Here's PixelPerfect:

Unplugged 17: interview with Lloyd Alvarez

Motionworks' Unplugged 17 features an interview with Lloyd Alvarez (Twitter @aescripts):

"Lloyd Alvarez, the talented and generous founder of, planned to be a doctor. Somehow that didn’t work out and these days he’s an in-demand freelance designer and creative director, working for some of the biggest name companies around. In this up-close and personal chat, Lloyd reveals how a willingness to set aside ego and do the most mundane tasks has lead to a successful career in motion graphics and visual effects. Lloyd shares his love for scripting, introduces us to and explains how scripts can be great time savers and give you edge in your productions.."

"Wonder Pets" (mentioned in this interview) on the AE-List,

"Yay, Wonder Pets! Yes, the whole show is done in AE, with characters and sets painstakingly crafted in Photoshop. Dan and I designed a whole workflow for Little Airplane Production, including a set of custom expressions and plugins that allowed them to build libraries of animations for their characters, to make ongoing animation efficient. Basically, think of animation presets that capture the entire state of a comp, with all its layers, precomps, etc. and then a system for saving, naming, and recalling these complex presets. So to animate a character, you just import its Photoshop file as a comp, launch our custom palette, and click on "walk in", "stop", "look left", "run off left" etc. A whole episode could be assembled very quickly this way, and let the animators focus just on the custom characters for each particular episode.

The system works beautifully (Thanks to Dan's brilliant programming) and saved them tons of money. We toyed with the idea of making a commercial product out of it, but the workflow was so specific to Wonder Pets that we figured the general demand wouldn't be there.

The tin can phone never goes to voicemail because they turned it off--too many crank calls from the Rugrats."

Update: Lloyd is teaching an Intro to After Effects Scripting course at fxphd this term.

December 20, 2009

'Super tight' garbage mattes in After Effects

Topher Welsh has a quick tip on creating "super tight" garbage mattes to aid keying. He uses a basic After Effects color key like Color Range then applies the Simple Choker filter with a negative setting, expanding the matte to let an advanced keyer like Keylight to work more subtle magic. This technique that can also be found in Making It Look Great 5 with Maltaannon.

The technique is inspired in part by an older video by Aharon Rabinowitz, Super Tight Junk Mattes which used Auto-Trace and the Simple Choker to refine garbage mattes (project files are still available at Cow). Aharon similarly leverages convenient Red Giant filters in a more recent tutorial, RGTV Episode 4: Better Compositing Techniques.

Also there's no reason you can't use a copy of the matte with Simple Choker to do a choke for a hold out matte to preserve the keyed subject (as seen in Commotion Complete by Matt Silverman and recent keying training from Toolfarm). Here's Aharon's older tutorial and the new one by Topher:

BBC 'Life': 2-year timelapse, 96 layers in After Effects

The 'Plants' episode from the BBC nature series, Life (with David Attenborough), features a making-of segment that shows a 2-year timelapse of plant growth that is composited in After Effects (via @tomguilmette). Here's that segment and a preview that discusses how other state-of-the-art techniques help capture extraordinary images:

Life - A preview of the series. from Documentally on Vimeo.

December 18, 2009

Video in magazines of the future + Apple's Tabula Rasa

With e-book readers and computer tablets coming to the fore, the publishing industry hopes for salvation. All Things Digital covered the backstory, especially Wired's effort, in November. Apparently, "Adobe is creating a publishing tool for the new format, as well as magazine-reader software that may come pre-installed on the devices or may require a download."

This of course goes beyond "book video" and what's now called the "Vook," both discussed here on AEP earlier this year. Here's a few examples of what's in development by Wired (loud audio), Sports Illustrated, and Berg with Mag+:

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Update: Recovering Journalist takes an overview in Apple's Tabula Rasa.

Easy download of video from US warplanes and drones

As the Pentagon is busy trying to control lightning, Wired notes that it's easy to download video from US warplanes and drones using a $26 app; see Not Just Drones: Militants Can Snoop on Most U.S. Warplanes and Insurgents Intercept Drone Video in King-Size Security Breach.

Wired also posted this 2002 video from CBS, showing an intercept in the act:

Update: there was a segment on The Rachel Maddow Show too, just the night before,

Update 2: According to the NY Times the Military Is Awash in Data From Drones. Newer drones are expected to record 10 directions at once, and many more in the near future, which should encourage research into storage, metadata, and organization.

December 17, 2009

Exploring YouTube's HD format

Jan Ozer's Streaming Learning Center has numerous tips for improving streaming video quality. Among the tips are details on options for uploading SD video to YouTube and exploring YouTube's HD format.

He summarizes his experience with YouTube HD:
  • YouTube appears to encode all 1080 files uploaded to the site into 1080p format.
  • The file is produced using the H.264 codec at about 3.5 mbps, in the High profile with CABAC enabled, but no B-frames. YouTube also creates at least two other formats for lower resolution playback.
  • The most reliable way to play the 1080p file is to click the full screen option in the YouTube player.
Update: Ozer has some additional observations in an update, YouTube's "New" HD Formats.

December 16, 2009

Duik Tools tutorial (IK script for After Effects)

Duik Tools, the inverse kinematics script for After Effects from France, now has an English language video tutorial. Here's an embed but check out the Vimeo page for more info and a skeleton source file:

Update: FAMOS later posted this,

Knoll Flare 3D (Beta)

Red Giant is introducing Knoll Flare 3D, free 3D lighting tools for Knoll Lens Flare Pro 2.5 users:

"Introducing Knoll 3D Flare (Beta), a new free set of tools that allows you to easily create Knoll Lens Flares in After Effects 3D space. This add-on for Knoll Light Factory (2.5) in After Effects includes fantastic features like
[AE Camera Awareness,] Edge flare-ups, color linking, Z-depth intensity, and full 3D obscuration."

You can also check out the Knoll 3D Flare intro tutorial.

Sneak peek of Flash CS5 + physics demo

Lee Brimelow posted a Sneak peek of Flash CS5:

"I just uploaded a new video that shows all of the exciting new features coming in Flash CS5. In a previous video I focused on the new iPhone development features but this video shows the rest of the cool stuff we have in store for you. This includes the XFL format, the new text engine, and the one and only Deco tool. Again, this is a prerelease version so everything is subject to change."

Update: iPhone and physics demos of CS5 (via,

Poly Blink preset for Particular

Trapcode Sharelog posted a free preset and demo movie for Particular 2, Poly Blink. This note comes via HashAE's almost unbeatable Twitter stream, which notes many other bits of After Effects news. Too bad HashAE is asymmetric about giving credit -- giving credit to some even though they post much later, while using exact wording from others without giving them credit.

Poly Blink from Peder Norrby on Vimeo.

December 15, 2009

Smoke on the Mac is shipping + demos

via Oliver Peters, Autodesk Smoke on the Mac is shipping today and there's a 30-day free trial version available. Check out the Fxguide coverage Smoke on Mac Part 1: Overview and various tutorials in Autodesk Area (essentials).

There's also various presentations, like in SF today and LA & NY, and a Technology Preview Webcast on Thursday December 17.

Update: the Smoke on OS X blog by Scott Malkie has an overview of resources; Autodesk also posted some movies on YouTube -- here's one,

December 14, 2009

3D Mandelbulb fractal filter for Pixel Bender and Quartz Composer

Subblue has free Pixel Bender and Quartz Composer versions of the 3D Mandelbulb fractal, which made a splash last month.

See also Subblue's previous Pixel Benders from the last year or so: a Droste Effect filter, the Fractal Explorer, and a 4D Quaternion Julia Set Ray Tracer with added ambient occlusion.

Subblue says: "Animations can be created in Adobe After Effects using the .pbk files, but it will be very slow to render as the calculations have to be performed on the CPU rather than the GPU. The following videos were created using the QuartzComposer patch and took 15-20 minutes to render at 720x576 for about 720 frames. If only After Effects would support GPU rendering too..."

Mandelbulb zoom from subBlue on Vimeo.

ShareLog: a new Trapcode sharing spot

Check out ShareLog -- an area at the new Trapcode site (still in development) where you can post presets, training, tips etc.

If you still pine for more, check out an older collection (re)posted by JMDesign, Trapcode People Resurrected.

Multiplane script and demos

AEScripts has a new script from Paul Tuersley, pt_Multiplane:

"Instantly turn layered Photoshop or Illustrator files into 3D multiplanes. It adds expressions that let you freely move layers on the z axis without changing the look of the shot from the original camera position, making it easy to experiment with depth in your scene."

There's also a nice 10-minute video tutorial with 3 demos, and more on multiplane cameras from an old Disney show:

December 13, 2009

Jumbotron in After Effects

Motionworks has a new tutorial, After Effects: Jumbotron Column:

"In this extended tutorial learn how to identify the field order of footage and interpret it collectly; create a realistic Jumbotron-style look using CC Ball Action, Glow, Levels and Curves; turn the jumbotron into a 3D column mounted on grungy wire mesh using Zaxwerks 3D Layer Warps; and fine tune the look by adding animated arrows plus a touch of Trapcode Shine and Magic Bullet Looks."

There were also a few other tutorials on creating a jumbotron look by Maltaannon and below by Aharon Rabinowitz.

New AE tutorials from Peachpit Press

Todd Kopriva noted some new tutorials in Video Made on a Mac podcast from Peachpit Press, from a book by by Richard Harrington and Robbie Carman. Here's an example tutorial, Pan and scan with After Effects:

December 12, 2009

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

A friend got one and it seems Boing-Boing is right, Livescribe Pulse Smartpen: It's a Keeper. It's a great idea that lets you keep track of story ideas or even generate information & training videos, and seems to open up all kinds of possibilities when combined with other new and future tech. Here's a bit how it works:

Here's an example "pencast:"

Stars Wars notes brought to you by Livescribe

December 11, 2009

More mocha tracking & roto

A recent thread on the AE-List and an interview with Ross Shain at Motionworks reminds one that options for tracking and roto in After Effects can be a bit complicated.

While not simple, the 3rd party workflow from Imagineer Systems offers accuracy & more features, with mocha AE version 2 (version 1 was bundled with AE CS4) and a newer plug-in mocha shape for After Effects. Both are discounted this month along with many other digital media tools. Mocha for After Effects v2 adds:
  • Exports of any resolution, per-point variable edge width roto shape data in the mocha shape format
  • Allows users to export tracking data as After Effects Corner Pin with motion blur
Imagineer has quick intro videos for mocha shape and mocha AE v2, and a bunch of other AE training projects even if you aren't upgrading.

Additional functionality and ease of use is offered by an After Effects script called MochaImport (streamlining the connection to CC Power Pin and Red Giant Warp), which is available at the price you name at AE Scripts. The script's creator, Mathias Möhl, has also provided several more training videos (see especially MochaImport 2.0 - New Features), which have been mentioned in previous AEP posts on mochaAE. Also, his post Mocha and Perspective Distortion clarified some confusion over tracking perspective distortion.

Of course tracking and roto doesn't require 3rd party tools (Mocha, RE:Vision Effects PV Feather, etc.), and there's plenty of training around.

Plus there are several scripts to ease workflow issues, like TrackerViz, Tracker2Mask, and KeyTweak -- all available through AE Scripts. For an overview of appropriate uses of Mocha and the scripts, see comments (excerpts) by Mathias Möhl on his blog.

Unplugged 16: interview with Ross Shain

Motionworks' Unplugged 16 features an interview with Ross Shain, now with Imagineer Systems:

"Ross Shain shares his journey from art college to Avid to Imagineer Systems – makers of the powerful Mocha, Mokey and Motor software applications. Ross clearly explains the difference between these popular tracking and rotoscoping packages and hints of great things just around the corner. "

December 10, 2009

Periodic table of visualization methods has an nice Periodic Table of Visualization Methods from 2005 with mouseovers to see examples. There's a number of similar infographics, as well as links to different ways to access the periodic table, like to an XML page where you can see the graphic styles individually. (via @coleran)

Another fun infographic is Which Countries Own America’s Debt?

Update: Flowing Data discusses proporations in 9 Ways to Visualize Proportions – A Guide.

Understanding linear workflow in After Effects

The Understanding Linear Workflow video by Daniel Broadway has passed peer review on AETuts:

"This tutorial is an introduction to using linear workflow within After Effects in order to achieve more photo-realistic composites. This is a prerequisite tut to pave the way for one we'll be posting soon on how to work with RED footage within AE." 

For more on Linear color space, here are additional resources (beware changes since CS3):

Update: François Tarlier has some extra tips for 3D artists using Mental Ray.

December 9, 2009

Got tears?

This is interesting if you recently caught the 1957 movie directed by Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd, which should show again on cable (TCM) January 12.

If you have an actor that can't cry, try a trick that works for FOX entertainer Glen Beck: Vicks under the eyes. For a variant, see Wesley's Weekly HOW TO: Fake Tears & Crying at IndyMogul. Here's Beck in action:

For balance, see Stephen Colbert's defense of Glenn Beck:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bend It Like Beck
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Live video from iPhone... There’s now apps for that

NewTeeVee posted an overview of activity by Ustream and others for live video on the iPhone in Live Broadcasting From Your iPhone? There’s (Finally) an App for That.

Of course there's still no video chat, but Ustream's app is free and doesn't need to be jailbroken.

There's broader detail of live video for mobile devices in some earlier AEP overviews: Broadcasting live video from phone and Mobile video reporting increasingly important, Overview of live video over the internet, and Live video streaming tips + marketing.

Update: from NewTeeVee, "Following on the heels of similar announcements from Ustream and Bambuser, Qik’s application for live video streaming on the Apple iPhone has finally been approved...Ustream also enables live video streaming through 2G, 3G, and 3GS iPhones."

December 8, 2009

Use Dropbox to remotely monitor After Effects renders

Prolost reminds about the Render and E-mail script and discusses how to Use Dropbox to Remotely Monitor After Effects Renders. Stu's readers added useful comments.

Update: Some people use Remote Tap, a remote desktop management solution for OS X and the iPhone & iPod Touch.

Also, see AE render notifications: iPhone & beyond here on AE Portal. Note that the new BG Renderer 2 from AE Scripts has notification support and explanatory movies.

JibJab effects in After Effects + elf yourself yourself

Greyscale Gorilla shows you how to Make the JibJab Effect using After Effects and the Tracker, which follows a similar tutorial posted earlier on AE Tuts, Create the JibJab Effect by Adam Everett Miller.

This effect should be popular this time of year with Elf Yourself and other semi-custom toys by JibJab. By the way, JibJab posts behind the scenes videos and background on the use of AE in their productions; see for example Putting it All Together.

Update: Adobe's Serge Jespers talks about how to start a Flash app similar to Elf Yourself with AE tracking, or how to elf yourself yourself, in Personalized video on the web,

White on white masking in Photoshop + Clone previews

Someday masking in Photoshop (stills) and After Effects (motion) may be more unified and simpler, but until then there are separate approaches to learn. Here's Russell Brown to show us how to use the masking tools in Photoshop CS4 on the complex problem of masking a polar bear standing in a field of ice and snow. Someday he'll have to try more than one frame!

Update: Some older tutorials can show up in Adobe.TV, like Live Brush Preview (with the Clone Stamp tool) and other good ones on Photoshop from Matt Kloskowski, Scott Kelby, and crew from the NAPP CS4 launch.t

December 7, 2009

Digital Anarchy returns with AE filter Beauty Box

Digital Anarchy returns with a new After Effects/NLE filter, Beauty Box (Mac/Win). Some commercials featuring older actresses suffer from a heavy hand on Median or Blur filters. This filter seems more precise, fast, and easy; see the video overview of Beauty Box for a quick peek.

Here's some detail:

"Beauty Box uses face detection to automatically identify skin tones and create a mask that limits the smoothing effect to just the skin areas. This
automated process usually requires little or no input from the user and does not involve hand masking.

Just apply the filter, click auto-detect, set the amount of smoothing, and render. This is designed to speed up the workflow that is usually required for skin retouching. Effects artists and editors no longer have to manually create masks and retouch frame by frame.

skin smoothing itself is also new technology. It keeps the important features of the face sharp while reducing or eliminating wrinkles and blemishes. By incorporating state-of-the-art face detection and smoothing algorithms, Beauty Box is designed to give actors a makeover in post-production."

Bar Graphs in After Effects

Video Copilot has a new tutorial on making Dynamic Bar Graphs:

"In this new tutorial we will isolate bar elements from a 3D render to build a customizable bar graph in After Effects. We will use expressions to control time-remapping and link values for the displays. The tutorial is a cool 20 minutes for quick viewing and easy reference for when you get the call…"

For similar efforts, see the AEP round-up Charts and graphs in After Effects and Leveraging tools for journalists. Specky Boy has an updated survey for the websters, 25 Graph and Chart Solutions for Web Developers.

Bad TV: new Pixel Bender + others

Bad TV, released earlier as a Mac-only Core Image-based filter for After Effects, is now also a Pixel Bender plug-in (compatible only with CS4 Win/Mac). It'll cost you only $20. A demo and instructions are in the video below.

Bad TV Pixel Bender from Satya Meka on Vimeo.

This effect has been popular over the years so there's a lot more presets, tutorials, and (more expensive) AE filters that try to at least partially simulate the effect: Digieffects Damage, Red Giant Holomatrix, Video Copilot Twitch, Creating An Old TV Screen (with project files) and Creating a Hologram Look in After Effects by Aharon Rabinowitz, Retro Style Graphics by Harry Frank (uses the Graymachine 3D and BadTV preset). Also try out another Pixel Bender filter RGB Sine Distortion by Synja Dev Blog.

We can also resort to leveraging the Bad TV Animation Presets built into After Effects!

Update: Also, check out this TV Noise preset at AEnhancers. And later, the bad-TV-ish De-rezzing grunge series by Laurence Grayson.

December 2, 2009

Maltaannon's Creative Breakdowns + many more

Sometimes "just do it" has odd wrinkles, so breakdowns of effects are nice. Maltaannon asked for suggestions and covered several in his live session Creative Breakdowns. Here's a portion of the session:

Update: Topher Welsh has more in 42 Crazy Awesome VFX Breakdowns, and KeyframeTV did some a few weeks ago. Breakdowns for many FX movies can be found most reliably on the vfxblog.

AE FAQS: memory usage, gamma shifts + more

Today Todd Kopriva added some useful posts on FAQs for After Effects and ProRes 4444 colors and gamma shift when working with After Effects and Final Cut Pro [Todd later added more on ProRes on the AE-List].

Many of us will find these reminders useful, like FAQ: Why doesn't After Effects see and use all of my RAM? In another example, here's a portion from RAM and disk caches that explains counterintuitive memory use of new systems with 8 GB and more of RAM:

"In the Memory & Multiprocessing preferences, After Effects reports the size of the RAM cache---the amount of RAM that can be filled with frames for RAM preview. With Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously turned off, this value is reported as Total After Effects Memory Usage. With Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously turned on, this value is reported as Foreground Memory Usage.

This value will not be the full amount of RAM allocated to the foreground application. Rather, it is just the part that can be filled with frames for RAM preview.

For example, on a Mac, this value might be 1.79GB on my Mac. 4GB is the theoretical limit for an After Effects process (because it's 32-bit). The OS takes a bite, getting you down to ~3GB. The RAM cache is only allowed to use 60% of that, which gets you down to 1.79GB.

The limitation of the RAM cache to 60% of the memory allocated to the foreground process is to avoid fragmentation problems and therefore out-of-memory errors.

The terminology can be confusing in part because in After Effects CS3 we had a Maximum Memory Usage item and a Maximum RAM Cache Size item, and in After Effects CS4 the thing called Foreground Memory Usage maps more closely to the latter, not the former."

Update: it's December and Todd is back with a reminder on RAM, Performance tip: Don't starve your software of RAM.

Unplugged 15: interview with Jim Geduldick

Motionworks' Unplugged 15 features an interview with Jim Geduldick (it's video so you can see what he looks like):

"In this episode of Unplugged, Jim Geduldick reveals how his passion for cinematography was born out of his love for skateboarding. We talk about Jim’s roles as an Apple technician, a designer for Mercedes and Little Airplane, and most recently, his role as Senior Digital Intermediate Artist at OffHollywood. We also touch on the importance of being versatile in our industry and the pros and cons of being on the bleeding edge of technology. We wrap up with, and"

December 1, 2009

Sneak Peek: Adobe Mercury Playback Engine

Adobe has slowly released info on its Mercury Playback Engine since September and now is showing a Sneak Peek of this technology presented by Dave Helmly at Adobe TV. Helmly also notes a "See How it was made" link for a peek of the workflow for the movie "Avatar."

In this video you can see "AVCHD playback and scrubbing, working with DSLR cameras like the Canon 5D & 7D, 9 Layers of P2, Native Red 4K Multicam editing and RED keying [at about 9:20] and ...accelerated rendering for exports. ...Currently, all you need is a Windows or OSX system that supports any of these cards: Geforce GTX285, nVidia Quadro CX,FX4800, or FX5800."